On January 15, 2013 Facebook announced Graph Search, a majorly enhanced search tool that will enable users to perform highly complex searches within Facebook; unlocking the behaviors and interests of their peers to produce meaningful and layered search results.
Using semantic search technology, Graph Search is designed as a Natural Language Search Engine. In contrast, Google and Yahoo rely on a series of keywords strung together to produce search results:
“[Facebook] Graph Search and web search are very different. Web search is designed to take a set of keywords (for example: “hip hop”) and provide the best possible results that match those keywords. With Graph Search you combine phrases (for example: “my friends in New York who like Jay-Z”) to get that set of people, places, photos or other content that’s been shared on Facebook. We believe they have very different uses.” – Tom Stocky and Lars Rasmussen, Facebook.
Facebook stresses that this is a very early-beta testing phase for Graph Search. Currently four main categories areas for searches are being tested:
So a People search might look like this, “Friends that were born in Los Angeles;” an Interest search might look like this, “Friends that cycle and ski;” a Place search could be, ”Indian Restaurants my friends have checked-in to;” and a Photo search, “Photos of Lake Tahoe.”
Even though testing is in its infancy, many top media outlets that focus on social media marketing, have been playing with and forming initial reactions to Graph Search.
The Social Media Examiner put together a thorough step-by-step review of Graph Search in its infancy:
If you don’t have time to go through the Social Media Examiner’s review, here are the key takeaways they’ve formulated based on their first experience with Graph Search.
Facebook Graph Search—What Do We Know? (From Social Media Examiner)
1. It’s a better interface into a lot of data that we’ve been able to access for a while. Facebook is making it easier and is using it to help users discover commonalities with friends and discover places to visit.
2. In several places, results show that Page likes are a proxy for “wisdom of the crowd,” and are given preferential treatment over those not as fortunate. This is important for marketers—Facebook considers likes to be valuable social validation and a driver for recommendations. Contrast that to Yelp, where a large number of positive reviews are considered to be premium social capital.
3. It’s clear that Facebook regards Pages with more fans to be more important than those without. Watch for this trend to continue and for Facebook to make social search more data-driven.
4. Page likes are “link-building” in the context of Facebook. Today you have to optimize your content for feedback to show up in the news feed, but that could very well extend to mobile devices and social search on Facebook and possibly beyond.
5. Brand-building is going to be tougher in a few years than it is today. It will only get harder over time, so there’s a case to be made for action to be taken now to build an active and engaged audience on Facebook while it is relatively inexpensive and easy.
6. Status update and comment content is largely untapped as a data resource in this version of Graph Search. It’s a huge opportunity that will certainly make Graph Search a richer experience for users.
7. For businesses seeking leads and customers, Facebook is taking its first steps to capture and calculate how its local listings and discoverability features result in sales. Attributing Facebook actions to more leads, sales and profit is an important theme for Facebook moving forward. Graph Search can and will ultimately help with that.
8. Finally, any person who changes privacy settings to Private is going to be largely undiscoverable in Graph Search. That may not be a big deal today, but could become one as Graph Search becomes a richer and more important part of the Facebook experience.
As more reviews and reactions continue to roll-out, we will put together a summary of key implications of Graph Search and the future of Facebook Marketing for brands and small businesses.